Over 100 children died in an outbreak of poverty-driven diseases in the Thar Desert in early March. The region is one of Pakistan's poorest and is home to some 1.3 million people, including a large population of Hindus. Life in the desert is closely linked to rain-dependent crops and animals. A drought in 2000 killed 90 percent of the livestock. According to government data, rainfall was 30 percent below the usual between March 2013 and February 2014. The worst-hit towns were Diplo, Chacro and Islamkot and barely had a drop of water for months.
Residents and activists say that the effects of drought can be mitigated by learning from the example of countries that have dry regions. Construction of canals and conservation of rainwater are some useful measures that could be adopted. “Rainwater harvesting should be made mandatory all over the country and especially in this part,” said Abid Channa, a local social activist.